dimanche 23 juin 2013

Sainte ETHELDREDE (Æthelthryth, Audrey ou Edeltrude) d'ÉLY, abbesse bénédictine et fondatrice


Sainte Etheldrede

Abbesse, fondatrice d'Ely (✝ 679)

Æthelthryth, Audrey ou Edeltrude.

Le grand nombre d'églises anglaises qui portaient son nom jadis montre bien combien cette sainte fut populaire en son pays. Elle vécut à l'époque de l'Heptarchie, c'est-à-dire à l'époque où l'Angleterre comprenait sept royaumes: Essex, Sussex, Wessex, Kent, Mercie, Est-Anglie et Northumbrie. Bien qu'Audrey ait désiré garder sa virginité, son père, Anna, roi d'Est-Anglie, ne l'en fit pas moins contracter deux mariages politiquement utiles. Par le premier, elle devint la femme d'un vieillard malade, le prince Tonbert qui mourut au bout de trois ans. Restée vierge, sainte Audrey pensait entrer en religion, quand on exigea d'elle qu'elle épousât le prince Egfried, fils du roi de Northumbrie. Ce n'était qu'un enfant. Quand il fut pubère, il voulut user de ses droits conjugaux, mais la future reine prit la fuite et se retira dans l'abbaye de Cuningham. Egfrid ne poursuivit pas son projet pour trouver femme mieux à sa convenance. Audrey put alors fonder l'abbaye d'Ely, puis en devenir l'abbesse et chanter la louange de Dieu tout à loisir durant des nuits entières.

(…)

Au monastère d’Ely, en Grande Bretagne, l’an 679, sainte Éthelrède (Audrey), abbesse. Fille de roi, et reine de Northumbrie, mariée deux fois, elle reçut des mains de l’évêque saint Wilfrid le voile des moniales dans le monastère qu’elle avait elle-même fondé, et où elle dirigea avec l’autorité d’une mère, par ses exemples et ses avertissements, un grand nombre de vierges.

Martyrologe romain



Sainte Édeltrude (ou Étheldrède), née vers l’an 610, saint Boniface IV étant pape, Héraclius empereur d’Orient et Clotaire II roi de France, nous donne une preuve de la possibilité de la sainteté au milieu des grandeurs du monde et dans l’état du mariage.

Fille d’un roi anglais, elle eut trois sœurs saintes comme elle : Sexburge, Witburge et Éthelburge. Un ardent amour pour Jésus-Christ et pour sa sainte Mère s’empara de ce cœur simple et droit, et de bonne heure, malgré son désir de passer sa vie dans une parfaite virginité.

Mariée plus tard par son père, elle eut le bonheur d’avoir pour époux un prince dont les goûts étaient les siens et qui vécut avec elle dans la continence. Au bout de trois années de vie commune, elle se retira, avec la permission de son mari, dans l’île d’Ély, qui lui avait été donnée pour douaire, et elle y mena pendant cinq ans une vie véritablement angélique. Pleine de mépris pour tout ce qui flatte la plupart des hommes, elle faisait consister sa gloire dans la pratique de la pauvreté volontaire et humiliations ; son plus grand plaisir était de chanter jour et nuit les louanges du Seigneur.

En vain sainte Édeltrude cherchait à vivre ignorée, ses vertus perçaient le voile épais de son humilité. Après la mort du prince son mari, elle fut tellement sollicitée à un nouveau mariage par le roi de Northumberland, qu’elle finit par y consentir, mais elle fut aussi heureuse que la première fois, car elle amena son second mari à vivre avec elle dans une continence parfaite. Nulle sainte peut-être n’a donné un pareil exemple, et pourtant rien n’est plus authentique.

Le roi l’aimait très tendrement, et elle-même avait pour lui une affection profonde autant que pure. Cependant sainte Édeltrude aspirait toujours à la vie cachée ; aussi finit-elle par obtenir de son royal époux la grâce d’entrer dans un monastère, où elle reçut le voile et parut aux yeux de ses soeurs comme un modèle de toutes les vertus.

Devenue bientôt Abbesse et fondatrice de plusieurs monastères, elle se vit bien plus heureusement mère selon la grâce qu’elle n’eût pu l’être selon la nature.

Elle ne faisait qu’un repas par jour, excepté les jours de grandes fêtes et quand elle était malade. Jamais elle ne portait de linge, mais de simples vêtements de laine. Son oraison était continuelle, et bien qu’elle eût assisté aux offices de la nuit, elle était toujours en prière avant le lever du jour. Après sept années de cette vie austère, jeune encore, elle reçut de Dieu la révélation qu’un certain nombre de ses sœurs mourraient bientôt de la peste et qu’elle-même les accompagnerait dans l’autre monde.

Elle souffrit avec une patience héroïque et mourut le 23 juin 679, saint Agathon étant pape, Constantin IV empereur d’Orient et Thierry III roi des Francs. Son corps fut trouvé dans un état de merveilleuse conservation plusieurs années après sa mort.



Sainte Etheldrede

Reine de Northumbrie et Abbesse d’Ely

Fête le 23 juin

Exning, Suffolk, 630 – † Île d’Ely, Cambridgeshire, 23 juin 679

Autres graphies : Etheldrede, Etheldreda ou Audrey [Æthelthryth]

Sainte Audrey ou Audry naquit à Exning, dans le Suffolk, de la famille royale d’Est-Anglie. Étheldrède était la fille du roi Annas de l’Est-Anglie et sœur des saintes Sexburge, Éthelburge et Withburge. Elle se maria, mais devenue veuve trois ans après, il est rapporté que le mariage ne fut jamais consommé. Ayant fait vœu perpétuel de virginité, elle se remaria avec le jeune Egfrid, fils du roi de Northumbrie ; quand Egfrid devint adulte, elle refusa de consommer le mariage et fut soutenue par saint Wilfrid d’York. Elle prit le voile à Coldingham, sous sainte Ebbe puis se retira à Ely, dans le comté de Cambridgeshire. Elle y fonda un monastère double pour moines et moniales. Finalement Egfrid se remaria. La dépouille mortelle d’Étheldrède demeura intacte ; sa main est toujours conservée à l’église catholique d’Ely. La cathédrale d’Ely occupe le site d’une abbaye bénédictine fondée en 673 par sainte Etheldreda, reine de Northumbrie qui, venue s’y retirer du monde, en devint la première abbesse. Ce premier couvent fut détruit par les Danois en 870.

Sainte Audrey fut l’objet d’une grande vénération populaire, car elle passait pour guérir les abcès à la gorge (affection à laquelle elle aurait elle-même succombé). Au Moyen Age, un festival, « la foire de sainte Audrey » (« St. Audrey’s Fair) se tenait à Ely le jour de sa fête. Le 17 octobre, fête de l’élévation des reliques intègres d’Etheldreda, Reine et Abbesse d’Ely.



Sainte Edeltrude nous donne une preuve de la possibilité de la sainteté au milieu des grandeurs du monde et dans l'état du mariage.

Fille d'un roi anglais, elle eut trois sœurs saintes comme elle : Sexburge, Witburge et Ëthelburge. Un ardent amour pour JÉSUS-CHRIST et Sa sainte Mère s'empara de ce cœur simple et droit, et de bonne heure elle conçut le désir de passer sa vie dans une parfaite virginité.

Mariée plus tard par son père, elle eut le bonheur d'avoir pour époux un prince dont les goûts étaient les siens et qui vécut avec elle dans la continence.

Au bout de trois années de vie commune, elle se retira, avec la permission de son mari, dans l'île d'Ely, qui lui avait été donnée pour douaire, et elle y mena pendant cinq ans une vie véritablement angélique. Pleine de mépris pour tout ce qui flatte la plupart des hommes, elle faisait consister sa gloire dans la pra¬tique de la pauvreté volontaire et des humiliations; son plus grand plaisir était de chanter jour et nuit les louanges du SEIGNEUR.

En vain Ëdeltrude cherchait à vivre ignorée, ses vertus perçaient le voile épais de son humilité. Après la mort du prince son mari, elle fut tellement sollicitée à un nouveau mariage par le roi de Northumberland, qu'elle finit par y consentir ; mais elle fut aussi heureuse que la première fois, car elle amena son second mari à vivre avec elle dans une continence parfaite.

Nulle sainte peut-être n'a donné un pareil exemple, et pourtant rien n'est plus authentique. Le roi l'aimait très tendrement, et elle-même avait pour lui une affection profonde autant que pure.

Cependant Ëdeltrude aspirait toujours à la vie cachée ; aussi finit-elle par obtenir de son royal époux la grâce d'entrer dans un monastère, où elle reçut le voile et parut aux yens de ses sœurs comme un modèle de toutes les vertus.

Devenue bientôt abbesse et fondatrice de plusieurs monastères, elle se vit bien plus heureusement mère selon la grâce qu'elle n'eût pu l'être selon la nature. Elle ne faisait qu'un repas par jour, excepté les jours de grandes fêtes et quand elle était malade.

Jamais elle ne portait de linge, mais de simples vêtements de laine. Son oraison était continuelle, et bien qu'elle eût assisté aux offices de la nuit, elle était toujours en prière avant le lever du jour.

Après sept années de cette vie austère, jeune encore, elle reçut de DIEU la révélation qu'un certain nombre de ses sœurs mourraient bientôt de la peste et qu'elle-même les accompagnerait dans l'autre monde.

Elle souffrit avec une patience héroïque et mourut le 23 juin 679. Son corps fut trouvé dans un état de merveilleuse conservation plusieurs années après sa mort.

Pratique. Rappelez-vous que la figure de ce monde passe, que c'est folie de s'y attacher, et que vous n'êtes sur la terre que pour gagner le ciel.


St. Ethelreda

Around 640, there was an English princess named Ethelreda, but she was known as Audrey. She married once, but was widowed after three years, and it was said that the marriage was never consummated. She had taken a perpetual vow of virginity, but married again, this time for reasons of state. Her young husband soon grew tired of living as brother and sister and began to make advances on her. She continually refused. He eventually attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows.

Saint Wilfrid refused, and helped Audrey escape. She fled south, with her husband following. They reached a promontory known as Colbert’s Head, where a heaven sent seven day high tide separated the two. Eventually, Audrey’s husband left and married someone more willing, while Audrey took the veil, and founded the great abbey of Ely, where she lived an austere life. She eventually died of an enormous and unsightly tumor on her neck, which she gratefully accepted as Divine retribution for all the necklaces she had worn in her early years. Throughout the Middle Ages, a festival, “St. Audrey’s Fair”, was held at Ely on her feast day. The exceptional shodiness of the merchandise, especially the neckerchiefs, contributed to the English language the word “tawdry”, a corruption of “Saint Audrey.”



St. Etheldreda

Queen of Northumbria; born (probably) about 630; died at Ely, 23 June, 679. While still very young she was given in marriage by her father, Anna, King of East Anglia, to a certain Tonbert, a subordinate prince, from whom she received as morning gift a tract of land locally known as the Isle of Ely. She never lived in wedlock with Tonbert, however, and for five years after his early death was left to foster her vocation to religion. Her father then arranged for her a marriage of political convenience with Egfrid, son and heir to Oswy, King of Northumbria. From this second bridegroom, who is said to have been only fourteen years of age, she received certain lands at Hexham; through St. Wilfrid of York she gave these lands to found the minster of St. Andrew. St. Wilfrid was her friend and spiritual guide, but it was to him that Egfrid, on succeeding his father, appealed for the enforcement of his marital rights as against Etheldreda's religious vocation. The bishop succeeded at first in persuading Egfrid to consent that Etheldreda should live for some time in peace as a sister of the Coldingham nunnery, founded by her aunt, St. Ebba, in what is now Berwickshire. But at last the imminent danger of being forcibly carried off by the king drove her to wander southwards, with only two women in attendance. They made their way to Etheldreda's own estate of Ely, not, tradition said, without the interposition of miracles, and, on a spot hemmed in by morasses and the waters of the Ouse, the foundation of Ely Minster was begun. This region was Etheldreda's native home, and her royal East Anglian relatives gave her the material means necessary for the execution of her holy design. St. Wilfrid had not yet returned from Rome, where he had obtained extraordinary privileges for her foundation from Benedict II, when she died of a plague which she herself, it is said, had circumstantially foretold. Her body was, throughout many succeeding centuries, an object of devout veneration in the famous church which grew up on her foundation. (See ANCIENT DIOCESE OF ELY.) One hand of the saint is now venerated in the church of St. Etheldreda, Ely Place, London, which enjoys the distinction of being the first—and at present (1909) the only—pre-Reformation church in Great Britain restored to Catholic worship. Built in the thirteenth century as a private chapel attached to the town residence of the Bishop of Ely, the structure of St. Etheldreda's passed through many vicissitudes during the centuries following its desecration, until, in 1873-74, it was purchased by Father William Lockhart and occupied by the Institute of Charity, of whose English mission Father Lockhart was then superior.

Sources

DODD, Church History of England; SCHRÖDL in Kirchenlex., s.v. Edilthryde; BEDE, Hist. Eccl., IV—with the historian's Latin poem in her honor; MABILLON, Acta SS. Ord. Bened.; LOCKHART, S. Etheldreda's and Old London (2nd ed., London, 1890).

Macpherson, Ewan. "St. Etheldreda." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 23 Jun. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05554b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Robert B. Olson. Offered to Almighty God for James and Kathy Boyle & Family.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.



JUNE 23.—ST. ETHELDREDA, ABBESS.

BORN and brought up in the fear of God—her mother and three sisters are numbered among the Saints—Etheldreda had but one aim in life, to devote herself to His service in the religious state. Her parents, however, had other views for her, and, in spite of her tears and prayers, she was compelled to become the wife of Tonbercht, a tributary of the Mercian king. She lived with him as a virgin for three years, and at his death retired to the isle of Ely, that she might apply herself wholly to heavenly things. This happiness was but short-lived; for Egfrid, the powerful king of Northumbria, pressed his suit upon her with such eagerness that she was forced into a second marriage. Her life at his court was that of an ascetic rather than a queen: she lived with him not as a wife, but as a sister, and, observing a scrupulous regularity of discipline, devoted her time to works of mercy and love. After twelve years, she retired with her husband's consent to Coldingham Abbey, which was then under the rule of St. Ebba, and received the veil from the hands of St. Wilfrid. As soon as Etheldreda had left the court of her husband, he repented of having consented to her departure, and followed her, meaning to bring her back by force. She took refuge on a headland on the coast near Coldingham; and here a miracle took place, for the waters forced themselves a passage round the hill, barring the further advance of Egfrid. The Saint remained in this island refuge for seven days, till the king, recognizing the divine will, agreed to leave her in peace. God, who by a miracle confirmed the Saint's vocation, will not fail us if, with a single heart, we elect for Him. In 672 she returned to Ely, and founded there a double monastery. The nunnery she governed herself, and was by her example a living rule of perfection to her sisters. Some time after her death, in 679, her body was found incorrupt, and St. Bede records many miracles worked by her relics.

REFLECTION.—The soul cannot truly serve God while it is involved in the distractions and pleasures of the world. Etheldreda knew this, and chose rather to be a servant of Christ her Lord than the mistress of an earthly court. Resolve, in whatever state you are, to live absolutely detached from the world, and to separate yourself as much as possible from it.

INTERCESSORY PRAYER: Ask Saint Etheldreda to intercede to God for your needs today.


June 23

St. Etheldreda, or Audry, Virgin and Abbess

From her life, by Bede, b. 4, c. 19, 20, and more at large by Thomas, a monk of Ely, in his History of Ely; in Wharton, Anglia Sacra, p. 597, and Papebroke’s Notes, p. 489, t. 4, Junij. See also Bradshaw’s life of St. Wereburga, c. 18. Bentham, Hist. Ely, ed. 1766.

A.D. 679.

ST. ETHELDREDA or EDILTRUDIS, commonly called Audry, was third daughter of Annas or Anna, the holy king of the East Angles, and St. Hereswyda. She was younger sister to St. Sexburga and to St. Ethelburga, who died a virgin and nun in France, and was eldest sister to St. Withburga. She was born at Ermynge, a famous village in Suffolk, and brought up in the fear of God. In compliance with the desire of her friends she married Tonbercht, prince of the southern Girvij; 1 but they lived together in perpetual continency. Three years after her marriage, and one year after the death of her father, Audry lost her husband, who for her dowry settled upon her the isle of Ely. 2 The holy virgin and widow retired into that solitude, and there lived five years rather like an inhabitant of heaven than one in a mortal state. Trampling under her feet whatever attracts the hearts of deluded worldlings, she made poverty and humility her delight and her glory, and to sing the divine praises with the angels night and day was her most noble ambition and holy employ. Notwithstanding her endeavours to hide herself from the world, her virtues pierced the veil which she studied to throw over them, and shone with a brightness which was redoubled from the lustre which her humility reflected on them. Egfrid, the powerful king of Northumberland, hearing the fame of her virtues, by the most earnest suit extorted her consent to marry him, and she was obliged to engage a second time in that state. The tradition of the Church, which by her approbation and canons has authorized this conduct in many saints, is a faithful voucher that a contract of marriage not yet consummated, deprives not either party of the liberty of prefering the state of greater perfection. St. Audry, upon this principle, during twelve years that she reigned with her husband, lived with him as if she had been his sister, not as his wife, and devoted her time to the exercises of devotion and charity. At length, having taken the advice of St. Wilfrid, and received from his hands the religious veil, she withdrew to the monastery of Coldingham beyond Berwick, and there lived in holy obedience under the devout abbess St. Ebba. Afterwards, in the year 672, according to Thomas of Ely, she returned to the isle of Ely, and there founded a double monastery upon her own estate. The nunnery she governed herself, and was by her example a living rule of perfection to her sisters. She ate only once a day except on great festivals, or in time of sickness; never wore any linen but only woollen clothes; never returned to bed after matins, which were sung at midnight, but continued her prayers in the church till morning. She rejoiced in pains and humiliations, and in her last sickness thanked God for being afflicted with a painful red swelling in her neck, which she regarded as a just chastisement for her vanity, when in her youth at court she wore rich necklaces studded with brilliants. After a lingering illness she breathed out her pure soul in profound sentiments of compunction, on the 23rd of June, 679. She was buried, according to her directions, in a wooden coffin. Her sister Sexburga, widow of Erconbercht, king of Kent, succeeded her in the government of her monastery, and caused her body to be taken up, put into a stone coffin, and translated into the church. On which occasion it was found uncorrupt, and the same physician who had made a ghastly incision in her neck a little before her death, was surprised to see the wound then perfectly healed. Bede testifies that many miracles were wrought by the devout application of her relics, and the linen cloths that were taken off her coffin; which is also confirmed by an old Latin hymn by him inserted in his history. 3

This great queen and saint set so high a value on the virtue of virginity, because she was instructed in the school of Christ how precious a jewel and how bright an ornament that virtue is in his divine eyes, who is the chaste spouse and lover of true virgins who crown their chastity with a spirit of prayer, sincere humility, and charity. These souls are without spot before the throne of God; they are purchased from among men, the first fruits to God and the Lamb, being the inheritance properly consecrated to God; they sing a new canticle before the throne, which no others can sing, and they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. 4 “Whither do you think this Lamb goeth? where no other presumes or is able to follow him,” cries out St. Austin. 5 “Whither do we think that he goeth? into what groves or meadows? Where are found joys, not like those of this world, false, empty, and treacherous; nor even such as are afforded in the kingdom of God itself to those that are not virgins; but joys distinct from theirs. The joys of the virgins of Christ are formed of Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. The peculiar joys of the virgins of Christ are not the same as of those that are not virgins; for, though others have their joys, none have such.” He adds, 6 “Be solicitous that you lose not this treasure, which if it be once forfeited nothing can restore. The rest of the blessed will see you, who are not able themselves so far to follow the Lamb. They will see you, nor will they envy you; but by rejoicing for your happiness, they will possess in you what they do not enjoy in themselves. And that new song which they will not be able to say, they will yet hear, and will be delighted with your so excellent a good. But you who shall both say it and hear it, will exult more happily, and reign more joyfully.” 2

Note 1. The Girvij inhabited the counties of Rutland, Northampton, and Huntingdon, with part of Lincolnshire, and had their own princes, dependent on the kings of Mercia.

Note 2. So called from the great quantity of eels in its waters.

Note 3. The monastery of Ely being destroyed by the Danes in 870, it was refounded by St. Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, and King Edgar, for monks only, and dedicated in honour of the Blessed Virgin and St. Audry, in 970. A bishopric was erected there in 1108.

Note 4. Apoc. xiv.

Note 5. L. de Sanctâ Virgin, c. 27, t. 6, p. 354.

Note 6. L. de Sanctâ Virgin, c. 29.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.



Etheldreda (Æthelthryth, Ediltrudis, Audrey) (d.679), queen, foundress and abbess of Ely. She was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born, probably, at Exning, near Newmarket in Suffolk. At an early age she was married (c.652) to Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas, but she remained a virgin. On his death, c.655, she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry. In 660, for political reasons, she was married to Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was then only 15 years old, and several years younger than her. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, as in her previous marriage, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship to be normal. Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria, refused. Egfrith offered bribes in vain. Etheldreda left him and became a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe (672) and founded a double monastery at Ely in 673. (from FARMER, David: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 3rd ed. OUP, 1992.)

Etheldreda restored an old church at Ely, reputedly destroyed by Penda, pagan king of the Mercians, and built her monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral. After its restoration in 970 by Ethelwold it became the richest abbey in England except for Glastonbury.

Etheldreda's monastery flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. It was refounded as a Benedictine community in 970.

Etheldreda died c.680 from a tumour on the neck, reputedly as a divine punishment for her vanity in wearing necklaces in her younger days; in reality it was the result of the plague which also killed several of her nuns, many of whom were her sisters or nieces. At St Audrey's Fair necklaces of silk and lace were sold, often of very inferior quality, hence the derivation of the word tawdry from St Audrey.

17 years after her death her body was found to be incorrupt: Wilfred and her physician Cynefrid were among the witnesses. The tumour on her neck, cut by her doctor, was found to be healed. The linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried. Her body was placed in a stone sarcophagus of Roman origin, found at Grantchester and reburied.

For centuries, Etheldreda's shrine was the focus for vast numbers of medieval pilgrims.

It was destroyed in 1541, but a slate in the Cathedral marks the spot where it stood, and the 23 June and 17 October are still kept as major festivals in the Cathedral. Some relics are alleged to be in St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, London (where the bishops of Ely formerly had their London residence). Her hand, which was discovered in a recusant hiding place near Arundel in 1811, is claimed by St Etheldreda's Roman Catholic church at Ely.

Eternal God,

who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda

that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer

and to the service of your true religion:

grant that we, like her,

may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom

that by your guiding

we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Ely suffered less than many other monasteries, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda's Shrine was destroyed.

The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School.

Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean.

The first major restoration took place in the 18th Century under James Essex. With the arrival of Dean George Peacock in 1839 a second restoration project began. Together with the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, he restored the building to its former glory.

A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000.

The Etheldreda Banner was made by Miss Yams of Bayswater in 1910 and is still used today during great processions at Ely Cathedral. It depicts Saint Etheldreda with a crosier as first Abbess of Ely, and around her, are the coats of arms of the See (top left), the University of Cambridge (bottom left), the Dean and Chapter of Ely (top right), and the Borough (now City) of Cambridge (bottom right); the arms at the top are those of Frederick Henry Chase, Bishop of Ely 1905-1924.

THE ELY SEQUENCE or 'The Story of Etheldreda' is sung at Ely on her feast days, 23 June and 17 October

1. Now, our hymn to God upraising,

Sing we of a queen's amazing

Lowliness of mind, today;

Who her royal state rejected

And, impelled by love, elected

In Christ's holy rule to stay.

2. See-as men her way impedeth,

As she follows where God leadeth,

Lo, her staff breaks out in flower.

Far aside all hindrance thrusting,

Loving God, Him only trusting,

She is strengthened in that hour .

2. See, the flood the saint protecteth;

God the plans of men correcteth;

She is safe from strife at last.

Bound to prayer for man's salvation

And to daily adoration,

To her Lord alone held fast.

4. So, by God to Ely called,

o'er His virgin flock installed

Mother, by Saint Wilfrid's hand;

Now, through work and word, she teacheth

Of the blessed way that reacheth

Unto life's eternal land.

3. Ely's shrine of wondrous beauty,

Kept by men of faith and duty

Through long years of change and strife,

Still is here to tell the story

Of how grace leads on to glory

And to everlasting life.

6. Etheldreda's holy living

Urgeth us to heartfelt giving

Of ourselves to God today.

May her prayers, for us ascending,

Gain us joys that know no ending

With the saints on high for aye.

Amen.

Alleluya.

SOURCE : http://www.elycathedral.org/history/the_story_cathedral.html

Etheldreda, OSB Widow (RM)
(also known as Audrey, Æthelthryth, Ethelreda, Edilthride, Ediltrudis, Edeltrude)


Born in Exning, Suffolk, England; died at Ely, 679.

"Now Etheldreda shines upon our days, Shedding the light of grace on all our ways. Born of a noble and a royal line, She brings to Christ her King a life more fine." --The Venerable Bede

To her friends and family, this once most famous female Anglo-Saxon saint was Etheldreda. To poor people she was Audrey, and the word "tawdry" originally came from the cheap necklaces that were sold on the feast of Saint Audrey and which were believed to cure illness of the throat and neck. This was because Etheldreda had suffered from neck cancer, which she attributed to divine punishment because she was once vain enough to wear a costly necklace. She had a huge tumor on her neck when she died, but, according the Saint Bede, when her tomb was opened by her sister Saint Sexburga, her successor as abbess at Ely Abbey, ten (or 16) years after her death, her body was found incorrupt and the tumor had healed. Etheldreda was a woman of noble birth, the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, and sister to Saints Sexburga, Ethelburga, Erconwald, and Withburga. She was born in a time when the religious were uncompromising in their desire for complete conversion of their lives to God. To Etheldreda prayer, the Blessed Sacrament, and works of mercy were essential features of her faith in Jesus Christ. From her youth she devoted herself to piety, purity, and humility. Though she seemed destined for the cloistered life, twice Saint Etheldreda was married and released from these unwelcome ties

At the age of 14, Etheldreda was married to Tonbert. Now some saints have run away from marriage when they felt called to the vowed religious life, but Etheldreda trusted in God. She accepted the wedding calmly and found that Tonbert was equally devout and was happy that they should live in continence. After three (or five) years together, Tonbert died.

For a time she enjoyed the solitude of the island of Ely, which had been part of her dowry, but for reasons of state she married again. Her second husband, Egfrid, son of King Oswy of Northumbria, was just a boy at the time. Etheldreda, though still young herself, treated him as her son or brother, rather than as a husband. She taught him the catechism and directed his spiritual growth, clearly trying to prepare him to accept a marriage of continence.

But after 12 years of this relationship, Egfrid, grown to manhood, tried to make her his wife in fact as well as in name. This alarmed Etheldreda, who then sought the counsel of Archbishop Saint Wilfrid of York. He released her from her marriage and advised her to withdraw to the Benedictine abbey of Coldingham. At last she was able to fulfill her heart's desire. She took the veil at Coldingham under Saint Ebba.

At first Egfrid tried to persuade Wilfrid to order his wife to return to him, but without success. In 672, she founded a double monastery, where the present Ely Cathedral now stands, and ruled it as abbess. Egfrid dispatched armed men to Ely in an attempt to force her to return, but the expedition was unsuccessful.

From the time founded Ely, Etheldreda ceased to wear clothing of fine linen and dressed only in woolen garments. Except at Easter, Pentecost, and Epiphany, she washed only in cold water. Only when she was ill or on great church festivals did she eat more than one meal a day. She prayed for those who did not pray and often kept vigil in the church from midnight until dawn. Seven years after the foundation of Ely Abbey, she died of the plague.

Saint Bede wrote a long hymn in praise of Etheldreda who, judging from the number of churches dedicated to her and calendars containing her name, must have been the most revered of all Anglo- Saxon women saints. This is partly due to the number of miracles that resulted from her intercession, which made Ely an important pilgrimage site (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).


In art, St. Etheldreda is crowned, holding a crozier, book, and a budding staff. Sometimes she may be pictured (1) asleep under a blossoming tree; (2) with a book and lily; (3) as a fountain springs at her feet; and (4) as the devil flees from her (Roeder). There is a 20th- century English banner with her image on the University of Pennsylvania homepage. Etheldreda is the patroness of Cambridge University (Roeder), and those suffering from throat and neck ailments (Bentley).
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0623.shtml

Saint Etheldreda

Also known as
  • Æðelþryð
  • Æthelthryth
  • Athelthryth
  • Audrey
  • Edeltrude
  • Edilthride
  • Ediltrudis
  • Ethelreda
  • Etheldreda
Profile

Sister of Saint Jurmin. Relative of King Anna of East Anglia, England. Princess. Widowed after three years marriage; rumor had it that the marriage was never consumated as Etheldrda had taken a vow of perpetual virginity. She married again for political reasons. Her new husband knew of her vow, but grew tired of living as brother and sister, and began to make advances on her; she refused him. He tried to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release her from her vow; Wilfrid refused, and instead helped Audrey escape to a promontory called Colbert’s Head. A high tide then came in – and stayed high for seven days; it kept her separated from her husband and was considered divine intervention. The young man gave up; the marriage was annulled, and Audrey took the veil. She spent a year with her neice, Saint Ebbe the Elder. Founded the great abbey of Ely, where she lived an austere life.

Etheldreda died of an enormous and unsightly tumor on her neck. She gratefully accepted this as Divine retribution for all the necklaces she had worn in her early years.

In the Middle Ages, a festival called Saint Audrey’s Fair, was held at Ely on her feast day. The exceptional shodiness of the merchandise, especially the neckerchiefs, contributed to the English language the word tawdry, a corruption of Saint Audrey.

Born